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After the Fall: Prison and Questions

Thursday, January 2, 2014

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The former senior federal official called his years of riches, built on an imaginary double life, a “rush.” Prosecutors called it “offensive.”

And the judge called it "unbelievably egregious”—then sentenced John C. Beale, 65, to 32 months in prison.

Once the highest-paid official in the Environmental Protection Agency, Beale stood before U.S. District Court Judge Ellen Huvelle on Dec. 18 and said that lying about his phony James Bond life had been "like an addiction."

He said that spinning his spy-life fantasies to supervisors for a decade had been a "rush" and that his million-dollar fraud had been driven by "simple greed."

Huelle, in turn, called Beale's crimes “inexplicable” and “unbelievably egregious." In addition to the prison term, she ordered Beale to pay $1.3 million in restitution and forfeiture to the government.

'Crime of Massive Proportion'

In a pre-sentencing memo, prosecutors called his fraud and lies a "crime of massive proportion" and “offensive” to legitimate CIA agents who risk their lives serving their country.

John C. Beale EPA fraud
C-SPAN Screengrab via expresso.sapo.pt

Beale was sentenced to 32 months in federal prison Wednesday (Dec. 18) after pleading guilty to bilking the EPA out of nearly $900,000.

Beale, of New York, NY, pleaded guilty Sept. 27 to illegally raking in $886,186 in salary, benefits and bonuses from January 2000 to April 2013.

The plea capped a stunning downfall for the graduate of New York University and Princeton University.

Until earlier this year, Beale was the No. 2 assistant to current EPA Administrator Gina C. McCarthy and earning $206,000 in salary and benefits. He retired in April as deputy assistant administrator in the Office of Air and Radiation as the investigation closed in.

'Like an Addiction'

For much of his EPA tenure, he was absent, including an 18-month period when he did “absolutely no work,” according to his attorney's pre-sentencing memo.

Overall, prosecutors determined, he was paid for two and a half years of work he did not perform and took in about $500,000 in undeserved bonuses, according to the plea agreement. The fraud included $8,000 the EPA spent to provide him with a special parking space after he lied about having malaria.

“Why did I do this?" Beale said at his sentencing. "Greed – simple greed – and I’m ashamed of that greed.” Beale also said he had gotten a “rush” and a “sense of excitement" by telling people he worked for the CIA.

“It was something like an addiction,” he said.

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy
Official photos

Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) is demanding a hearing into Beale's actions, stating that the fraud was called to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy's (right) attention "nearly two years before she took action."

The pre-sentencing memo filed by Beale's attorney, John Kern, said: “Mr. Beale has come to recognize that, beyond the motive of greed, his theft and deception were animated by a highly self-destructive and dysfunctional need to engage in excessively reckless, risky behavior.”

Kern also said Beale was driven “to manipulate those around him through the fabrication of grandiose narratives … that are fueled by his insecurities,” according to news reports, citing the memo.

Earlier Red Flags?

Reaction to Beale's admissions came swiftly from Capitol Hill.

Sen. David Vitter (R-LA), the top Republican on the Environment and Public Works Committee, renewed his demand for a full committee hearing into Beale's activities, "especially since reports show fraud was called to Gina McCarthy’s attention nearly two years before she took action," Vitter said in a statement.

On Aug. 27,  2013, Vitter requested that the EPA Office of Inspector General investigate "whether this corruption is isolated; or if not, who facilitated the excess salary, bonuses, travel and leave." The OIG accepted Vitter's request on Sept. 5.

Earlier this month, the OIG released its findings in these reports:

Internal Controls and Management Actions Concerning John C. Beale's Pay Issues
Internal Controls and Management Actions Concerning John C. Beale's Travel

Investigation Demanded

After Beale's guilty plea, Vitter urged the committee's chair, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), to hold a full committee hearing into Beale's activities. After sentencing Wednesday, he stepped up that demand.

"Although the criminal charges Beale was sentenced to today are limited to stealing money in the form of salary, benefits, and certain unearned Retention Incentive Bonuses between 2000 and 2013, the Committee understands that evidence indicates that Beale's fraudulent activities at the EPA date back to as early as 1989," Vitter said.

Chairman Barbara Boxer
Official photo

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), chair of the Environment and Public Works Committee, has not publicly responded to Vitter's request, but said she is "confident that EPA will implement any additional measures necessary to ensure that this does not happen again."

Boxer did not publicly respond to Vitter, although she called Beale's sentence "appropriate" and his activities "outrageous."

Case Closed?

But Boxer did not promise hearings. Indeed, her statement suggested that she considered the matter settled.

"EPA has already put safeguards in place to prevent fraud and deception from happening in the future," Boxer said.

"Once the EPA Inspector General's investigation has been completed, I am confident that EPA will implement any additional measures necessary to ensure that this does not happen again. The Obama Administration's Department of Justice is also making sure that the American taxpayers will be reimbursed."

   

Tagged categories: Air quality; Enforcement; Environmental Protection; Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); EPA; Good Technical Practice; Government; Laws and litigation

Comment from Gail Alario, (1/2/2014, 8:53 AM)

Only in a government agency can this sort of thing go on for years undetected. One must simply ask why?


Comment from john lienert, (1/2/2014, 10:43 AM)

the answer is in your question.....it is an agency of "our" government.............enough said


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